Decoding the Calories in Beef Pho: America’s Favorite Vietnamese Noodle Soup

Over the past decade, pho has skyrocketed from an obscure Vietnamese noodle soup to a mainstream American comfort food staple. The classic combination of aromatic beef broth, tender rice noodles, and fresh garnishes satisfies a craving like few other dishes can. With pho restaurants on seemingly every corner today, this soothing soup has become a go-to takeout option for many.

But if you’re trying to watch your calorie intake, you may be wondering – just how many calories are actually in a steaming bowl of beef pho? The answer is a bit complicated, since pho recipes can vary widely. However, with a little insight, you can enjoy this favorite comfortably within your diet.

In this guide, we’ll break down the typical calorie content in beef pho and steps you can take to lighten it up. Read on to get the facts on approximating calories based on portion sizes, ingredients, and preparation methods. Armed with this knowledge, you can slurp up your fill of pho without overloading your calorie budget for the day.

What is Pho and How is it Made?

Before diving into the calorie breakdown, let’s quickly recap what traditional pho is and how it’s constructed. Pho originated in Vietnam and features a few key components:

  • Beef broth – The foundation of pho is a deeply flavorful broth made by simmering beef bones, warm spices, charred onions, and aromatics for hours. This extracts and melds all the flavors.

  • Rice noodles – Pho is served over chewy rice noodles that soften in the hot broth. Standard sizes range from small to large.

  • Beef – Thinly sliced raw eye of round or brisket beef cooks in the piping hot broth. Fatty cuts add more calories.

  • Herbs and extras – Plenty of fresh herb garnishes like basil, bean sprouts, lime wedges, chilies, etc. Top the bowl.

  • Sauces – Hoisin, Sriracha, and fish sauce are often added tableside.

This combination provides protein, carbs, veggies, and healthy fats in one comforting package. But the ingredients and portions used impact the calories per bowl.

Average Calorie Count in Beef Pho

Beef pho can certainly be part of a healthy diet when enjoyed in moderation. But how many calories are in a typical bowl? Here are some general guidelines based on average portion sizes:

  • Homemade pho – Around 215 calories per 1 cup serving

  • Restaurant pho – Ranges from 500-1,000 calories per large bowl

  • Packaged/instant pho – Roughly 200 calories per 1 cup serving

As you can see, calories vary hugely based on where you enjoy your pho. Homemade and packaged versions tend to be lighter, while restaurant pho packs a bigger caloric punch.

Let’s break down the factors that influence the calorie content in pho.


  • Beef broth is the core component, providing rich flavor but minimal calories.

  • Homemade broth is the lowest calorie option using just bones.

  • Restaurant broth can be higher in fat/calories if made with fatty beef cuts.

  • Packaged broth may contain added sugars or preservatives that increase calories.


  • Rice noodles are primarily carbohydrates, but not incredibly calorie-dense.

  • A typical restaurant portion contains 200-300 calories worth of noodles.

  • Limiting your portion of noodles drastically reduces pho’s calories.


  • Lean beef provides protein and iron, but fatty cuts add more calories.

  • 3 ounces brisket packs around 150 calories.

  • Opt for lean flank, eye of round, or sirloin to trim calories.

  • Portion matters – restaurants provide around 6-8 ounces of meat.


  • Herbs, veggies, beansprouts and lime add nutrition without a lot of calories.

  • Sauces like hoisin and Sriracha can add sugars and sodium.

  • Limit high-calorie extras like egg rolls, spring rolls, and fried sides.

Cooking Method

  • Restaurant pho tends to use higher calorie ingredients, oils, and larger portions.

  • Homemade pho gives you control over lean meats, minimal oil, and reasonable portions.

  • Packaged pho offers portion control but may contain preservatives, salt, or sugars.

As you can see, the individual ingredients, portion sizes, extras, and cooking methods significantly sway the total calorie count of a pho bowl. Being mindful of these factors enables you to enjoy this comforting soup without overdoing it calorically.

How to Order Lower Calorie Pho

If you’re watching your calorie intake, don’t avoid pho restaurants altogether! You can order beef pho and still keep calories reasonable by following these tips:

  • Select a small size bowl for broth and noodles control.

  • Ask for 50% less noodles to slash carbs and calories.

  • Choose lean beef cuts like eye of round, sirloin, or brisket.

  • Request extra broth rather than extra noodles to fill up.

  • Load up on broth-based herbs and veggies for bulk without calories.

  • Avoid fried side dishes and sugary drinks that drive up calories.

  • Use sauces sparingly or ask for low-sodium options.

  • Request dressing and extras on the side to control how much you eat.

  • Take home leftovers rather than overeating extra large portions.

With a few modifications, you can enjoy restaurant pho for 500 calories or less per bowl!

Make Lower Calorie Pho at Home

For the ultimate control over nutrition and calories, making homemade pho allows you to optimize ingredients, portions, and preparation. Follow these tips for lower calorie homemade pho:

  • Simmer bones and lean beef for broth maximum flavor without excess fat.

  • Season broth with spices, aromatics and herbs instead of salt for flavor.

  • Stick to reasonable 1-2 cup portions for broth and noodles.

  • Use lean beef like sirloin, London broil, or flank steak.

  • Load up on virtually zero calorie garnishes.

  • Make your own low-sodium sauces to avoid added sugars.

  • Boost nutrition by using whole grain or brown rice noodles.

  • Try zucchini noodles or shirataki noodles to slash carbs.

  • Swap in chicken, shrimp, or tofu for even more calorie savings.

Home cooking gives you full control over ingredients, portions, and boosting nutrition in your pho. With a few easy substitutions, you can enjoy this comforting classic for under 300 calories per serving!

Sample Lower Calorie Pho Meals

To give you an idea of reasonable pho calorie counts, here are a few sample lightened up pho meals:

  • Small restaurant bowl with half noodles, lean beef, broth-based veggies (~500 calories)

  • 1 cup homemade pho with sirloin, shirataki noodles, lots of herbs (150 calories)

  • Packaged pho with added shrimp and baby bok choy (250 calories)

  • Restaurant small bowl with chicken and doubled up broth (300 calories)

As you can see, with mindful ordering and a few customizations, you can definitely fit pho into a calorie conscious diet!

Tips for Pho Calories When Dining Out

Beyond ordering modifications, keep these tips in mind to manage pho calories when eating out:

  • Check the menu and nutrition info online beforehand to plan your order if available.

  • Opt for broth-based appetizers like summer rolls rather than fried.

  • Ask if they can substitute vegetables for noodles or serve sauce/extras on the side.

  • Request a to-go box right away and box up half your pho to prevent overeating.

  • Drink unsweetened tea, water, or broth instead of sugary soft drinks.

  • Share an order of pho or split appetizers with a friend to control portions.

With the right strategies, you absolutely can enjoy pho on a calorie conscious diet. Knowing what to look for regarding portion sizes, ingredients, and cooking methods helps you make the healthiest choices.

Use the knowledge in this guide to customize your perfect lower calorie pho. Then sit back and savor the aromatic steaming broth, tender noodles, and savory beef without diet guilt. Pho offers comfort, flavor, and nutrition all in one bowl – when enjoyed mindfully.

How to Eat Pho: You’ve Been Doing it Wrong


How many calories in a bowl of beef pho?

The number of calories in a large bowl of beef pho can vary depending on the recipe and serving size. However, on average a large bowl of beef pho can have around 600-800 calories.

Is beef pho good for diet?

Beef pho is one of the most popular Vietnamese dishes and for good reason. It is loaded with healthy ingredients that offer many health benefits, including weight loss, improved cardiovascular health, and reduced risk of cancer.

Is pho healthier than ramen?

Ramen is always going to naturally be higher in calories though and there isn’t much to do to bring that down. Vietnamese pho is designed to be filling but also low in calories so for pho lovers, that’s a win. Carb-wise, pho contains roughly 45g of carbs per bowl compared to ramen which has approx. 60g of carbs.

Is pho broth high in calories?

Pho Calories For anyone wishing to eschew the vegetables and protein, you can opt for pho broth as a healthy, low-calorie soup. Pho broth contains just under 10 calories per 1 cup and includes healthy ingredients such as kelp stock, onion puree, organic ginger juice, coriander, cinnamon and cloves.

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